My Latest Snag: Children’s Stationery from Preppy Prodigy.
I recently re-stocked our stationery drawer with some new stationery from Preppy Prodigy, which has the sweetest prints for little ones. I snagged this set for mini — the colors are fantastic! I love when designers use sophisticated colors like gray/taupe! Also loving these bunny gift tags. Might order a set of those to accompany with an Easter baked good for loved ones and neighbors.
You’re Sooooo Popular: The Evening Dress.
The most popular items on the blog this week:
+This gorgeous Needle & Thread gown. The perfect pick for an evening affair.
+These Chanel-esque slides. I love how these would transform a pair of black jeans and white tee into something haute-looking.
+A chic, monogrammed cachepot. Great way to dress up a shelf or coffee table — and a sweet gift!
#Turbothot: First-Choice Schools.
If you went to college: did you get into your first-choice school? How did that impact you?
I have been thinking about this while reading Michelle Obama’s account of her own education, where she mentions, in passing, that she “was applauded just for getting in [to Harvard Law School], even if the truth was I’d somehow squeaked in off the wait list.” I’d somehow forgotten, or willfully buried, or otherwise distanced myself from the petulance and bristle that emerged whenever someone asked me: “Where are you going to school?” or “Where do you go to school?” or “Where did you go to school?” I wonder what it would feel like to have been admitted to my top-choice school, whether or not I’d been ushered in off the wait-list.
Academics were my thing throughout my childhood and teenage years. I was high-performing. I earned As with ease. I won nearly every academic award at the end of each school year throughout grade school and was valedictorian of my high school class (though we didn’t use the term valedictorian at Visitation). Teachers praised me. Classmates labeled me as “smart.” It was who I was.
I set my sights on Princeton by sophomore year of high school. Fashioning myself as a character out of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, I anticipated an intellectual blossoming during my college years that would only — could only — take place at my rightful home among the greenswards and Gothic architecture of Tiger territory in Princeton, New Jersey. I was even selected to participate in a program for gifted students at Princeton when I was a rising high school junior; I took the train up with my friend Meghan and we spent the day in mini-lectures and courses, toured the campus, and spoke briefly with members of faculty and admissions. I took this as a gesture of courtship.
I applied early decision. I had family members who had attended Princeton write letters of recommendation on my behalf. Everyone assured me it was a done deal.
And so I was astonished when a thin rejection envelope arrived in the mail. I dropped to my knees in histrionics and refused to eat or talk to anyone in my family for a full day, sulking in my room, wondering what I had done to deserve this injustice.
I begrudgingly turned my attention to my other applications while sullenly observing that nearly everyone else in my friend group had been accepted into an Ivy League school: E. and N. were going to Princeton; T. was bound for Dartmouth; M. was headed to Harvard; S. was off to Brown; M. was matriculating to Penn. Meanwhile, I was beginning to wonder whether I’d get into either of my second choice schools: UVA or Duke. Though I knew both were great options, I couldn’t help but observe that though I had the highest GPA in my class, I was not going to be an Ivy Leaguer, and maybe not a Blue Devil or Wahoo, either — and it did not seem fair.
Ultimately, I got into both UVA and Duke and waited until the very last possible moment to send in my acceptance letter to UVA, swayed by its offer of an Echols Scholarship and its proximity to home. For months, though, I found myself performing excitement about my future academic home. I felt I’d been treated unfairly in the application process. After years and years of academic assiduousness, operating under the premise that my hard work would pay off, I felt defaulted, cheated. Or maybe I was being punished for my intellectual snobbery, I mused. Maybe this was a comeuppance I needed?
I now look back and know that UVA was the best place for me. Though I have no point of comparison, it just felt right the entire time I was there. I had several close friends who transferred schools over the course of their college experiences, but such an upheaval never once flitted through my mind. I was snug, secure, happy. The academics were rigorous and rewarding, and being in the Echols program stroked my fragile ego and enabled me to retain my claim on cerebrality — gifts I may not have enjoyed at an Ivy League school, where I’d be one of thousands of academically-oriented students, and probably one of the lower performing ones if I am honest. Meanwhile, the UVA social scene scene and especially its equilibrium with academics was new and thrilling. Though this is an over-broad generalization, I found that many of my UVA classmates were more balanced than I’d been as a high school student hell-bent on an Ivy League school. Though Wahoos studied hard and took their academics seriously, grades weren’t everything. There was a low-key-ness to academic exertion at UVA: less hype, less humble bragging about how many hours had been spent in the library, less anxiety around scores and deadlines. My classmates tended to work hard and then shift gears to attend to other interests. I learned that academics was just one of many spheres in which to cultivate myself, and watched with interest as classmates with wide-ranging interests and talents garnered attention and respect of commensurate intensity. I remember a super-attractive, super-fratty, super-southern boy who seemed to be at the pinnacle of the Greek social ladder mentioning, with no small amount of reverence, that his girlfriend was a big deal in the student judiciary system. (I also discovered, to my surprise, that she was a “GDI” — “goddamn independent” — meaning that she was not in a sorority.) The entire thing confused and impressed me; I had assumed that student politics were a brainy, dorky operation and that participants in the realm would be relegated to second-class status in the overall social hierarchy of the school. This was not the case. I learned this lesson over and over again while at UVA, each time restructuring my vision of merit, social standing, and “coolness.” Of course, it’s possible I could have learned these lessons at another institution, but it seems to me that UVA had a different vibe than some of the other schools I pined after when it came to matters of intellectualism and academics–one that placed other realms of achievement on an even playing field.
I also fell in love with Mr. Magpie there, and of course cannot imagine my life being as rich and beautiful as it has been without his dramatic entrance and steady, substantial presence in it.
Aside from teaching me balance and presenting the logistical opportunity to meet and court my future husband, not getting into my first-choice school represented the first of countless times in my life where I have been hell-bent on something only to fail at achieving my expected outcome. I like to think these failures have taught me grit and resilience, but that’s a bit self-aggrandizing. The truth is that they have humbled me. They have taken me down a peg. They have forced me to confront the gray area between fate and agency, and to take the best from both perspectives. Some days, I thought: I didn’t get into Princeton because it wasn’t meant to be. I’m learning what I need to learn. God willed it this way. Admissions are random anyway. Other days, I thought: I didn’t get into Princeton because I was too focused on academics. I should have played a varsity sport, or pursued piano more aggressively, or participated more intensively in volunteering, or or or or. I didn’t get in because there are so many people out there who are smarter and more hard-working than I am. In other words, not getting in set the stage for countless rounds of self-reflection and more general negotiations with what I can and cannot control. These are healthy musings. They ground me. They prevent me from taking anything for granted. They remind me that life not fair, and no one said it would be — but then again, there are always things I could have done differently, and I need to learn what I can from my own missteps.
Still, as I read Michelle Obama’s book, I found myself wondering what would have happened had I gotten into Princeton. Who would I have been? Would I have learned the same lessons, perhaps more painfully, four years later, when applying to graduate school and not getting in to a first-choice school there? Would I have skated through life with an unearned sense of bravado and ease for longer, only to topple elsewhere? Would I be less inclined toward risk, or more inclined toward it? I wonder how deeply my change in college plans impacted who I have become.
What about you? Did you get into your first-choice school? How has it shaped you?
#Shopaholic: The Floral Anorak.
+Loving this floral anorak as a transition piece for spring. Such a light-hearted way to add a print to your wardrobe.
+Swooning over the vintage vibes on this toddler bubble. I am also suddenly, gut-wrenchingly aware that mini can no longer wear baby clothes like this. For starters, she barely fits into a size 2T (she is SO tall), but her long legs also make me think that putting her in bubbles/sunsuits will look oddly infantalizing. Sigh.
+Yoox has some incredible Self-Portrait dresses on super sale. Love this.
+How sweet is this tiny mother-of-pearl star on a simple gold chain?
+As of the time of writing this, I am being bizarrely last-minute about what I will be wearing to my baby sprinkle (which is taking place today, Saturday, probably while you are reading this!) My front runner has been this dress, which works with the bump and can be tied in the back to have a huge and dramatic bow. I love it. I also ordered this Emilia Wickstead dress when it went on sale, but it doesn’t work quite as well as I’d expected with the bump. And then, at the last minute, I ordered this fun Ulla Johnson tunic because — it jumped out at me. Such different vibes! I have no clue what I’m going to end up with!
+These heart-shaped earrings are so fun (and inexpensive!)
+Two books on my radar for mini: this one on Maria Montessori (mini starts Montessori this fall!) and this one (love the illustrations!) Also, mini is a Mo Willems convert. She is IN LOVE with Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. Thanks to all of the mamas who raved about this author! I especially love the pigeon book — I think it puts the kiddo in an interesting position where he/she has to be the disciplinarian! Love it.
+How cool are these monogrammable ballet flats?!
+PSA: some Native Shoes for kiddos on sale for around $20 here.